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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Direction of The Sponge

Have you noticed that there are an enormous number of articles available to the Modern Oracle Professional (MOP) that highlight and praise other articles? It's sort of like a scientific citation of a previous work, I suppose.

But who, I ask you, is drawing attention to the less-than praiseworthy articles? The articles that represent documentation dumps, or which give you no useful information whatsoever. You know the ones I mean -- you read them and are then left with a hollow, empty feeling inside. "What did I just learn from that?", you wonder. "What information did this give me that I can take away and make use of?", you cry.

No-one, that's who. Well actually some people are but it's often an incidental exercise, not the major thrust of their article.

Maybe that is the niche that the Sponge can occupy -- the fair and balanced debunkings of bad articles. Nothing distasteful* you understand, nor anything disrespectful to the author, but an honest appraisal of both good and bad points.

Ground rules are obviously essential, and here's a few off the top of my head.
  1. Spelling mistakes will be penalised heavily
  2. Bad grammar is inexcusable, except where English is the second (or third etc) language of the author. (OK, so it is excusable by that then).
  3. There will always be a right-of-reply. No exceptions.
  4. It is acknowledged that the authorship of a Bad Article is not a sign of moral degeneracy or bad character.
  5. Extra penalty points shall be awarded if the article was publically presented.
  6. False conclusions, straw men, non sequiturs*, and that Latin phrase that TK quoted are inexcusable.
  7. Citing other articles that are not publicly* available in support of your advice is a Very Bad Thing.
  8. Citing other articles that do not support your advice, in support of your advice is also a Very Bad Thing.
  9. Erm ...
  10. That's it
Additional ground rule suggestions are always welcome.

So what about it, MOPs? Can you go for such a trend?

* Spelling corrections courtesy of a man who spells his name with a Y instead of an I. Grrrr.

21 Comments:

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Thomas Kyte said...

Spelling mistakes will be penalised heavily

hey, where is the Z?

distateful distasteful
publically publicly
non-sequiteurs non sequiturs

(hehehe, that was too low...)

now, to add a spell checker to my interface on asktom....

 
At 8:35 AM, Anonymous John Spencer said...

David:

I love your ground rules. I'm sure you will do a fine job of debunking.

Tom:

There is no "zed" in penalised, just as there is a u in colour. I know David is a soccer fan so suspect that there is, at least, some Brit in background or education.

 
At 8:54 AM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

Someone find me a Thomas Kyte article quick -- he's first for the treatment. (I would call it a "Sponge Bath" but that would be too weird and creepy even for Mr Hanky).

 
At 8:55 AM, Blogger Thomas Kyte said...

There is no "zed" in penalised,

thats why I left it out of the list -- that one was debatable

 
At 8:57 AM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

John,

Yes, I'm one of those evil foreign script kiddies. Been in the States for about seven years now.

Not a big soccer fan though, except in the street with my kids. Anyone remember the name of the British comedian who did a piece about how you're terrible at soccer until you have kids, whereupon you turn in Pele? I think it was Eddie Izzard.

 
At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Captain Obvious (who else?) said...

How about how the debunking of an article is not a personal attack? I know, I know, it should be "obvious" but some folks out there are just so darned touchy!

 
At 8:59 AM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

Zed's: my mother tells me that as a child back in the 1830's (just jokes Ma, I meant the 1930's of course) she was taught Z spellings. This was in the UK, of course. So I believe that it is a British "deviation" (one of many) that we use S so much.

Perfidious Albion!

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

CO,

Yeah, it ought to be obvious, but you're right. Speaking for myself, when I critisise an author's article I've always tried to make it clear that while there may be a critique (implied or explicit) of the author's methodologies in general, I am not criticising the author's personality, moral values or honesty. It would not be productive to do so, and would discourage free and open debate on the merits of the article and it's subject matter.

I think that a key principle is that author feedback ought to be actively sought -- I guess by emailing him/her a notification of where they can find the article and the means by which they can respond.

How does that sound?

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

Spelling corrected in article.

With proper attribution. ;)

 
At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Captain Obvious (sometimes) said...

If it works, sounds good. Jonathan Lewis has tried that with certain authors, I know of one that still seemed to take umbrage even though they were informed of the critique. Ah well, you can't please everyone....

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Peter K said...

Good list although bad spelling is debatable (as long the communicate is clear). Should include no netspeak after all if we are going to spend time and effort in understanding the article in question and the critique, we shouldn't need to put in more effort to try and decipher netspeak.

:D

 
At 10:51 AM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

I'm excusing myself from the bad spelling issue because, well it's a blog! It's spontaneous, and fun blah blah!

So I'll admit a double standard for others also. Bad spelling in blog articles will not be rated as badly as it wil be in PowerPoint presentations etc.. I think that if an article is going to be presented then it ought to go through a spell checker, at least.

 
At 11:26 AM, Blogger Thomas Kyte said...

Serious comment

If someone makes up a new term or redefines an existing one to make it fit their needs -- call it out. We have enough made up terminology.

Preciseness of terminology is crucial, we can use a dictionary when needed to clarify terms.

 
At 12:08 PM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

Ah yes -- made-up and redefined terminology. Nice one.

Also just using imprecise language as well I guess

 
At 1:39 PM, Blogger Niall said...

Any one with the temerity to call new terminology when it is either misleading or meaningless, even when well defined.

two simple examples.

MTS = multi-threaded server
Is it multi-threaded? No. is it a server, well hardly.

RAC = Real Application Clusters
As opposed, to FAC: Fake Application Clusters. Anyone who has heard Oracle Employees joke 'well if it doesn't scale on RAC its not a real application' will know this isn't entirely unfounded.

 
At 10:46 PM, Blogger Howard J. Rogers said...

Agree with that last one. I tell my classes I teach 'SNAC'... Somewhat Normal Application Clusters.

 
At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Captain Obvious said...

Er, um, Howard - isn't that making up terminology? David, you must now whack Howard on the knuckles with a wooden ruler. ;D

 
At 7:54 AM, Blogger Ajay said...

Faked data and mutating articles (as opposed to "living documents" with clear history of revision) are other things that come to mind.

 
At 8:30 AM, Blogger Bill S. said...

Ajay, what's wrong with faked data? Just so long as the STATISTICS aren't faked, who cares about the data? ;-D

 
At 8:57 AM, Blogger Ajay said...

Ajay, what's wrong with faked data?

Bill,
I was talking of data in a slightly different sense, as in the metrics used to reach a conclusion. Statistics are a perfect example of that.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Bill S. said...

Ajay,
Sorry about that. Point taken. Must work on taking things too literally. 8-)

 

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